BRAINERD, Minn. -T.J. Graves began his lawn care business by mowing his neighbor’s yard. He soon discovered there were other neighbors who also wanted their yards mowed. From that beginning, he has grown his business to include 28 customers and 47 properties, including commercial and seasonal properties.

The Minnesota FFA Association has named Graves the 2014 Minnesota FFA Star in Agribusiness, one of the association’s highest honors. He competed with three other finalists at the 85th Minnesota FFA Convention, April 27-29, in St. Paul Minn.

In addition to mowing, his services now include snow removal when he added a truck equipped with a snowplow in 2012.

Graves established his own website to promote new business and added a laptop and portable printer for his truck to print new contracts and invoice jobs that people request upon seeing his work in the neighborhoods he serves. He has invested his business earnings into new and updated equipment, and plans to continue expanding the business.

Graves served as Region II secretary this past year and on many chapter leadership committees. He has been a member of the Brainerd FFA Parliamentary Procedure team for the last two years that competed in the state event. 

This fall, his plans include attending college in either heavy equipment operation or landscape construction and design.
His chapter advisor is Denise Reeser and his parents are Tom and Kathy Graves of Baxter.

Each year at the Minnesota FFA convention, 16 state finalists-four in each category-vie for the association’s top awards: Minnesota FFA Star Farmer, Minnesota FFA Star in Agribusiness, Minnesota FFA Star in Production Placement and Minnesota FFA Star in Agri Science.  These awards honor students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their supervised agricultural experience (SAE); demonstrated outstanding management skills; earned the Minnesota FFA Degree – the association’s highest level of accomplishment; and met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements.

A panel of judges interviewed each finalist, and the winner was announced in an onstage convention ceremony and received a plaque and an award of $300. The runners-up also received plaques and $100 each.

Ag Star Financial, as a special project of the Minnesota FFA Foundation, sponsors the Minnesota FFA Degree recognition programs. The Minnesota FFA Association represents 187 agriculture, food and natural resources education programs and local FFA Chapters, serving more than 10,000 student members across the state of Minnesota. For more information visit